Monday, August 30, 2010

August 30, 2010

We took a couple of days off of school work because the boys were really complaining and throwing fits about it and, of course, that is not how I want it to be. After giving it some thought, I have cut way back on how much we do so that their lessons are very quick.

Now we will do a lesson in OPGTR on one day and then practice reading the next day. And we will learn how to properly write a new letter one day and then practice writing it more the next day. We will move through things more slowly overall but I think it will work out better for them. Eventually they will build up more tolerance and then we can start extending lessons a bit more. We started this today and it went very well.

Another thing I started doing was typing up the OPGTR lessons so I could leave out all of the instructions to me. This makes the lesson seem much shorter to them. When they would look at the page in the book with the instructions to me, it would be a bit overwhelming to them. It made them think the lesson was much bigger/longer than it really was. So I did this today and I printed out a page for each of us to hold, which they loved. Then I had a highlighter and I would highlight some words/sentences for Ben to read and some for Nick to read. They really liked this. Of course, for children their age, novelty is fun and exciting so everything is great the first time we do it. We'll see how they are doing with it a week from now.

They love doing our Bible devotional so that is not an issue. They love being read to so that is not an issue either. Today we started re-reading My Father's Dragon. It's been quite a while since we read it and I think they had forgotten parts of it. They really enjoyed it today and kept wanting me to read more.

We are still listening to the unabridged version of Peter Pan when we are riding in the car. We have all really enjoyed this so much. I think we have probably listened to it 10 times by now and I think I have enjoyed it as much as they have, most of the time. I really enjoy the accent of the guy who reads it and the way he does the voices. It sure makes for quiet car rides. I just ordered two more audio books, Little House in the Big Woods and Treasure Island. I hope we will enjoy these as much as we have Peter Pan. We also listen to Just So stories and a CD of poems by various authors. The poems are ones that boys in particular would enjoy and we have all enjoyed those too. We listen to Peter and the Wolf, various classical composers and scripture verses that have been put to music while we are in the house, usually while we are preparing, eating and cleaning up after meals, while I am doing chores and the boys are playing, etc. We all enjoy that a lot too.

I was also thinking about how to give them incentive to read aloud more to us and to also strive for better behavior. So today I introduced the marble jar and a large bowl of marbles. They get to put a marble in the jar when they read a book (Bob books and some other readers I ordered from Modern Curriculum Press). This is great because they immediately wanted to read more books to us. They ended up reading two or three books to me and then another two or three to their daddy. I am amazed at how well they are both reading. I have ordered some more difficult books that have the more recent ending blends we have already studied.

In other news, they are really into this children's charades game that they picked up at a garage sale recently. It is really fun for everyone and it is funny to watch them try to act things out.

And, in still other news, we are hoping to receive estimates from three different builders this week. We have actually already received one but need some clarification about it. Another one has said he is ready to meet to go over his numbers and we are trying to coordinate a time. The third one I happened to see out at a burger place on Sunday afternoon and he said they are hoping to have their numbers ready this week too. Who knows, maybe we will actually be ready to make this decision within the next week. I hope! It is very interesting to see how this has evolved and where we have ended up. I have no doubts that God is in control and is leading this effort. I am at peace knowing His timing is perfect and He knows what is best for us.

Odds and Ends: The boys and I have colds. We went to the church near our old house for the last time yesterday. We plan to start visiting churches in the town where we will be building our new house now. The boys are doing well in both swimming and soccer and are enjoying both. Both are once a week now. When it cools down a bit, we are planning to move our piano from my sister's house to our rental house. Hopefully by then I will have found someone who gives piano lessons.

Here are a few more pictures of the boys. I really need to start taking more pictures. I have not been as good about that lately. Must do better.

These pics were taken just before we moved. I think this was their last bath in our old house. I told them to show me their muscles and these were the poses I got.

This was when Ben was totally into shooting his bow and arrows. He is actually quite good at it. Their cousin gave them this shirt and they use it for dressing up like a hunter.
I need to get some things done while the boys are out running through the sprinklers. Until later.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

August 24, 2010

The boys are doing very well with their reading and writing lessons and we are enjoying our daily devotionals. We are at lesson 50 in The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, which is where we start learning the beginning two consonant blends (TR, FR, etc.). We just finished the ending 2 consonant blends and they are reading 4 letter words now. We try to spend some time with them reading to me also.

Yesterday was not a very good day for us, for several reasons. But one thing I am learning is how much is enough for them and when to stop. It is easy to fall into that mode of "let's just finish this lesson" because I like to finish things:). But it is better to leave them feeling successful and wanting more. So, I need to remember that and make our lessons a bit shorter.

I need to remind myself that they would not be going to Kindergarten until next year so there is no reason to push. Everything they learn this year is gravy and really next year too, as we really don't HAVE to start homeschooling here until 1st grade.

It has continued to be 100+ here most days. Combine that with our new back yard, which is not very big and is sloped to the point that we cannot put up the swingset, and you get two little boys that are not spending enough time outside and not getting enough exercise. We try to get out to the parks first thing in the mornings but we can't do it every day and we really have not found a great park near here. Some OK ones but not great. We may need to drive further.

Well, short post because quiet time is over and boys need some attention from mom. Later.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

August 11, 2010

We are getting back in to our routines around here and that feels nice. I can tell everyone is feeling a bit more settled and behavior has improved greatly.

I am noticing a number of changes as the boys approach the 5 year-old mark.

They are now spending time each day very contentedly playing alone. Typically this means that Ben is pretending something, which is what he spends the majority of his time doing, and Nick is building, coloring or playing with some type of vehicle.

Behavior is improving in ways I have read about for 5 year olds, that generally they tend to want to obey and please more.

They are really getting tall and really looking like older boys rather than little guys. Maybe it is just that they recently got their hair cut and it had gotten so much longer but they just look so different to me.

I am constantly amazed at how much they can do for themselves and how well they do it. It is a pleasure to watch them. What a blessing it is to watch them grow and change each day and, my goodness, how much I learn and change along with them.

We had a long meeting with our potential GC guy. In short, he is still coming in very high on his numbers, although he is still gathering numbers and trying to fine tune them. He ended up staying in our guest room Friday night and we all drove up to the property on Saturday. We had a chance to go through a house that is being built so he was able to see how these homes are really being decked out. We also had a chance to pick up a flyer at the office that listed new homes for sell and square footage, so we all saw how overpriced his numbers were. It was definitely what we all needed to see. So he is reworking his numbers and we have contacted three local builders who have all built multiple homes in the community where we own our lot. All three of them are going to provide bids and we have also just received a new bid from another SIP dealer. This is all great because it ensures that we will end up getting a decent, fair price for the SIP materials and also for the rest of the materials and labor. The husband and I are both feeling much better about the situation this week. I am just hoping that we can get these numbers together quickly so we can get moving. It would be nice to have the house dried in before winter weather hits.

Of course, we are still dealing with 100+ degree weather around here. This is the hottest summer we have experienced since moving to Oklahoma. It is so hot that you really just can't stand being outside unless you are swimming or playing in water in some form or another. Even if we go out first thing in the morning, it is not long before the boys are wanting to come back in because they are too hot. It really is brutal. I have lost track of how many consecutive days we have had of 100+ degree weather but I would not be surprised if we are setting a record. I really feel bad for the boys because I know they miss playing outside and we all end up feeling a bit couped up. I try to think of things that we can go do but I know they are not getting the exercise their bodies really need. We still have swimming once a week and soccer once a week so that helps a little...but not enough.

I am just so very thankful that we have air conditioning. I can't imagine going through this without it. I don't know how we did it when I was a child because we did not have air conditioning until I was in 7th grade. We slept with the windows open and the fans on, but the world was a safer place back then, or at least it seemed like it was (of course I was living in a small town of around 900 people at that time, where everyone knew everyone).

Oh, the other news worthy thing is that we have started having an official reading lesson every day. Now, we have only done this for three days so far but it has really gone well. The boys are really enjoying it and Ben even asked to do it this morning. And they are both doing extremely well with it too. Today we were learning about words that end with 'ck'. One interesting thing is that Nick seems to be catching on very very quickly right now, even faster than Ben, but Ben was catching on faster the last time we were working on it.  Interesting how they bounce back and forth. Probably has something to do with who is going through a growth spurt or something.

Regardless, it is so fun to see them learning to read and to watch them get excited about their successes. They really enjoy learning to spell also so that is probably the next thing I will introduce 'officially', once we get a routine down with the reading lessons. I am starting slow and adding on as we go, a little at a time, and we will be keeping it fun and lessons will be short. Today we finished our reading lesson in probably about 10 or 15 minutes tops. Yesterday's was a bit longer. Tomorrow they are so short we will probably be able to do two but I will play it by ear and see what they are up for, as I don't want to push too hard.

I am just so relieved that we have this year to learn to read and start getting used to the idea of doing school. Hopefully by next year, when they officially have to start K, it will be easy for all of us because we will already know the routine and we will simply be adding some additional subjects.

It's late. Time for bed. Goodnight.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

August 5, 2010 Part 2

We are just starting to get back to a somewhat normal routine. We closed on our house last Friday, which was such a relief. It was a relief to be finished cleaning it and watering the plants every other day. I was so done with that. The buyers have big plans for remodeling and updating pretty much everything. From the sounds of it, it will be very beautiful and up to date when they are finished. I hope they will be very happy there.

We are now living in a rental home and I think it is going to work out very well for us. It has the same number of bedrooms and baths as our old house, although it does not have an office so we are using one of the bedrooms for the husband's office. The rooms are all smaller across the board, with the exception of the master bedroom which is huge.

We are using the small dining room as a school room / arts and crafts room. It is really coming in very handy to have an extra table set up with all of the crayons, markers, glue, etc. that does not have to be put away before every meal. The boys are in there drawing, coloring or making something at least a couple of times a day, if not more.

The downside is that there is much less floor space for the boys to just get down on the floor and play. There is a nice sized playroom upstairs and they do play up there regularly but, unless I am up there, they spend much more time overall playing downstairs and they bring their toys downstairs to play. Even though it means things are a bit messier, I am really OK with that because I enjoy having them nearby. So, we are making it work.

We have put tubs of some of the most used toys under the ottoman in the living room, we still have the two big baskets of toys in there but we are still constantly having to tote things back and forth between upstairs and down. It really is not too bad though. We place things on the bottom steps and the person who goes up next is suppose to take a load with them. It's working for us and I am more patient about letting things be a bit more strewn about.

Overall, it is a great rental house (although the yard is not) so I am very thankful to be able to live here for now.

The boys are still in swimming classes. They took lessons twice a week during June and July and just switched back to once a week in August. They have had some great instructors at this place. One in particular was a favorite this summer. Mr. Michael stole their hearts at the first lesson in June when he pretended pirates with them. They had him all through June and most of July and then he left to get ready to go back to college. He was so fun and they really learned a lot with him.

They are now back with the teacher they had last fall, whom they love, so we are happy about that. Funny thing is that I ended up kind of having a preference for the men teachers (they have had two men and two women so far) because they seem to push them a bit more. Also, I think the boys tend to prefer them more because they would throw them in the air a bit when sending them off for a swim. I think they were a bit more rough-ish, in a good way, for the boys and they will likely miss that.

They are both swimming under water for about 5 to 7 feet. Ben requires less assistance then Nick currently, although this tends to switch back and forth. Nick was having an issue with trying to go too fast and ended up thrashing a lot but Mr. Michael was able to get him to slow down a bit and he is now improving fast. They are learning to dive (sitting and kneeling on the side) and they jump off the diving board and swim to the side.

We have them signed up through December and will likely have them go through the spring also, with plans to make sure they get plenty of pool time next summer. We'll see how it goes. I would not mind if one or both of the boys decided, at some time, they want this to be their sport and would like to do competition swimming. But, everyone has their own favorites so I will wait until they are older and see what they choose.

Their soccer lessons will be over in another couple of weeks and I'm not sure right now if we are going to sign them up for the fall. I have to talk to the dad about that. The boys are game, although I think Ben is a bit half hearted about it at times.

We are planning to start a little 'official' schooling soon. The boys have friends who are starting kindergarten this year so they want to start school too. We'll see how much they really want to do it once it becomes more routine. I think Ben will be into it but Nick might not. I am thankful that we have another year before they are officially required to start so we can play it by ear this year. We will be focusing on learning to read, write and spell this year. Once we get going and get comfortable with our new routine, we will likely throw in some math also.

I was unpacking all of the homeschool materials the other day and Nick saw the readers. I had put them up a while back, when they had lost interest and we were too busy with other things. I wanted them to be out of sight for a while so they would be fresh and new when we brought them back out. Nick was so happy to see them, he sat down and read 3 or 4 of them in a row to me and then read another one to the dad, while Ben was reading one to me. I was very impressed that they really had not lost anything we had learned, even though we had not done anything in months. If anything, Nick was reading better than before. They have amazing memories and such a natural desire to learn, it is awesome.

We have so many letters and books and learning materials around that they are always learning even when it is not my focus. They are both wanting to learn to read so I think they will be into the reading lessons we do. They are also always asking me how to spell words, as they write notes or lists or whatever. Ben knows how to write all of his capital letters and is working on lower case. Nick probably does not know how to write all of his capital letters yet but he knows many, if not most. Today he showed me that he had learned how to write a small h. He was so pleased with himself. It really is amazing how much they learn just because they are interested. I think if I keep giving them real life reasons to learn to spell and write, they will be into that also. Today I was telling them that once they learned to write and spell, they could write secret notes to daddy and sneak them into his lunch or briefcase and he would find them at work. They absolutely loved that idea and were wanting to do it right away.

We will continue to use The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. We will be using All About Spelling, Zaner-Bloser Handwriting and, if we get to it, Right Start Math. We have some other fun things to add into the mix for literature related art projects and some phonics workbook pages, just in case someone wants to do them here and there. Ben did one today but Nick was busy doing something else.

Add to all of this, the building of the new house. We have a meeting scheduled tomorrow morning with the potential GC to go over the detailed estimates he has developed. This should be an interesting meeting. I am very hopeful that we will be ready to move ahead after this meeting but it would not surprise me if we have to revisit a few things first. My mom, sister and niece (and maybe my nephew) are coming tomorrow for a visit and will play with the boys while we meet with the GC.

Well, it's getting late and, as usual, this is getting very long so I had better sign off for now. Nick will most likely be up sometime between 6:00 and 6:30 in the morning, no matter what time he got to bed, so I need to get some rest:). Goodnight.

August 5, 2010

It has been a long time since I have posted any pictures and the boys have really grown. These are from this afternoon at soccer practice.

Below is Ben. Hasn't he grown? His hair is longer than ever, I think. Funny enough, I am really liking both of the boys with longer-ish hair right now, although I think the dad is planning to cut it this weekend.

Cousin Jana got the boys these cricket jerserys when she was in India recently for a mission trip sponsored by her university. It was good timing because they have worked out perfectly for soccer.
Below is Nick. He was not very interested in posing for me so I just took some action shots of him. This kid is an enigma. He is all action and movement or he is all sit and read/color/play with legos, etc. He is all happy-go-lucky or he is all angry/fit-throwing/yelling (reminds me of what they said about Tinkerbell in Peter Pan, which we listen to often when driving in the car). His behavior seems to indicate that he has struggled with adjusting to the upheaval of the move, although I think we may be leveling out now. He really needs a lot of consistency and routine or at least lots of notice when our schedule is going to change. Last minute changes, unless they are exciting and fun, are difficult for him. I am learning and we are working on it and I think we are making good progress.
He loves loves loves anything to do with sports.
Nick had stopped long enough for me to take a quick picture. As soon as Ben saw this, he stepped into the picture also. Just as I was snapping the picture, Nick started to put his arm around Ben. How sweet is that? They are the best of friends. They play together for long periods of time and then, at times, they also purposely irritate each other (and me) for long periods of time. But, they are definitely the best of buds.

This is a start; more to come....